A Time to Fight

Why is nobody talking about preemptive war in Korea?

I support peace, and generally oppose war.

Of course, it is highly popular to express after-the-fact opposition to the Iraq war, but I have some bona fides: I organized and led a class boycott at the University of Kentucky when we first invaded.  I even opposed the Afghanistan war, a position I later realized was an error, as we are better off for our decision to dismantle the Taliban.

I start with that bit of “about-the-author” background because it colors my views on the emergent conflict in the Koreas.  The Iraq conflict in particular provides us with an interesting context for evaluating Korea.

We were told, falsely, that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction.  It was further posited that we could not allow a brutal, unstable tyrant to possess nuclear weapons.

Kim Jong Un, the young ruler of North Korea, comes from a line of tyrants.  However malleable the term “brutal, unstable tyrant” may be, suffice it to say he falls within most rational definitions.  He has nuclear weapons, and has defiantly tested them.

We were told, falsely, that Iraq posed a threat to its neighbors, and that it had ambitions to attack other nations in its region.

North Korea, by contrast, has threatened repeatedly to use its nuclear arsenal on its neighbors, Japan, and the United States.  It currently lacks the delivery mechanism to bring nuclear weapons to our shores, but it is working on them; it recently launched a satellite into orbit.

We were also told, accurately as it turns out, that Hussein’s regime was committing human rights abuses against its own people, and that moral considerations militated (no pun intended) for intervention.

The human rights abuses in North Korea make Hussein’s Iraq seem downright pleasant.  It is an entirely closed society, with pervasive censorship, authoritarianism, and a populace kept starving while the military ranks among the largest in the world.

Based on the now-discredited “case against Iraq” from the Bush years, it appears that North Korea checks all the boxes.  North Korea is everything we falsely claimed Iraq was prior to invading.

The recent escalation in both rhetoric and action is incredibly unnerving.  We are dealing with a brutal dictator, oppressing his people beyond the bounds of human rights, and openly threatening to attack America and its neighbors with both conventional weapons, and the nuclear weapons we are absolutely sure he possesses.

The response of America, and the world, to North Korea baffles me.  What outcome do we expect?  It is a matter of time before either the dictator is overthrown- unlikely given the imbalance of power and lack of communication with the outside world- or Kim Jong Un acquires the means to bring a nuclear attack to our shores.  Alternatively, he could sell his nuclear arsenal to “interested third parties,” such as Iran or international terrorist groups.

I believe it is time for a more robust debate about whether military intervention is appropriate in Korea, and if so, how to go about it in a way that will minimize casualties, and the risk of the regime using its nuclear arsenal.  I make that assertion reluctantly, but confidently.  For all the reasons intervention in Iraq was a mistake, intervention in Korea may be appropriate, and ultimately necessary, to prevent terrible consequences in the near future.

As far as I can tell, this debate is not yet taking place, on either side of the political aisle.


Published in: on April 1, 2013 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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